RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on Thursday outlined his legislative and budget priorities to support ‘Historic Justice’ in the Commonwealth.
According to a release from the govenor’s office, ‘Historic Justice’ is, ‘a concept and movement dedicated to telling an inclusive history that accurately reflects the experiences of people of all races, genders, creeds and communities.’
“Virginia’s history is difficult and complex, and it is important that we tell the full and true story of our past 400 years. When we have a complete understanding of how we got to the present, we are better prepared to improve our shared future. These proposals will help us to tell the story of people and places that for too long have been neglected or marginalized and continue to build a modern, diverse, and inclusive Commonwealth.”– GOV. RALPH NORTHAM
Governor Northam’s proposals include lifting the Commonwealth’s prohibition on the removal of Confederate war memorials so that localities can decide how to deal with these monuments of the past. Virginia is home to more than 220 public memorials to the Confederacy.
Other proposed legislation adds protections and funding for historic African American cemeteries and creates a commission to recommend a replacement for the Robert E. Lee statue in the U.S. Capitol. To date, eight statues in the Natural Statuary Hall have been replaced, and seven additional states are working through a similar process.
Governor Northam also wants to create Historic African American Cemetery Grant Program and authorize the Department of Historic Resources to certify cemeteries to receive annual maintenance funds of $5 per grave. Though the number of historical African American burial grounds in Virginia is unknown, the General Assembly has certified 24 cemeteries since 2017. The governor’s proposed budget will also include $250,000 for the maintenance of historic African American cemeteries and the hiring of an experienced historic preservationist to focus exclusively on projects and issues involving historic and prehistoric burial grounds.
Governor Northam’s proposed budget also includes significant investments in new historical highway markers that reflect the diverse nature of the citizens of the Commonwealth and $2.4 million for the City of Alexandria to expand the museum at the Freedom House, the site once part of the headquarters for the largest domestic slave trading firm in the United States.
Northam introduced his proposals Thursday during a press conference where he also addressed the blackface scandal that nearly forced him to resign from office.
“Historic justice is intended to correct historic injustices,” the governor said.
“Well, obviously, February was a tough time for Virginia, and I appreciate Virginians for sticking with me. I have listened to a lot of Virginians, I have learned a lot, and I think we’ve taken some great measures to address equity, diversity, and exclusivity in the commonwealth,” Northam continued.